[How-to] On Learning to Unicycle

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Photo credit: Stefano Corso (flickr: pensiero)

This is an essay on learning how to unicycle.  It’s more philosophy than how-to guide, so be forewarned/get excited.

(i) A Thousand Falls

The simplest advice I can give to learn how to ride a unicycle is this: fall off a unicycle a thousand times.

Of course, there’s a bit more technique to it, but this is the gist.  Fall off, get on, try again.  Repeat ten-hundred times.

I, like most people I know, learned how to ride a bike at a very young age.  And although I don’t remember the specifics, I’d imagine I fell off hundreds of times before I got it quite right.  That’s quite a few skinned knees.  Yet I have zero recollection of it.

But that’s the nature of kids, isn’t it?  They dive in with confidence and just keep trying.  Setbacks fade fast.

I think we forget that as we grow older.  No longer do we forget failure with such alacrity.  We’re a little less bold in how we approach our endeavors.  But I accidentally found a blast from that past, and it has one wheel and a seat.  Never since childhood have I failed so frequently at something and kept going.

And never has it felt so great to finally learn!  Finally being able to balance is great, but even the process leading up to it is exciting.  Your progress isn’t linear, so the entire process is you improving slowly, but also in leaps in bounds.  You’ll spend a few hours of unicycling time going just inches before bailing.  Then you’ll upgrade to feet.  Later, you’ll clear ten feet.  And a few days after that, a hundred.  And then you’ve got it.  At some point, you just stop falling off.  Crap, it feels wonderful.

(ii) Blue-Collar Failures

One thing that stuck out to me about falling off a unicycle was that it was a pretty objective measure of failure.

And we don’t have that a lot.  Or at least, I don’t.

In a lot of projects I work on, motivated waxes and wanes; excitement fades away, and perfectly good ideas are never brought to glorious execution.  It’s easy to rationalize these abandoned dreams.  Failure becomes less tangible.  It looks less like defeat and more like procrastination.  It’s not a knock-out blow to the head; it’s a dull sense of regret and a light flurry of rationalized excuses. Read More

Merry Christmas! Here’s my Bucket List!

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After receiving numerous requests to post my own bucket list on the blog, I’ve done just so here.  Check it out.  The number 1 item is “Shave my face with a whaling harpoon”

[How-to] 5 Public Speaking Tips You Haven’t Heard Anywhere Else

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Photo credit: White House (flickr: barackobamadotcom)

Note: This is the first in a series of posts about skills and accomplishments that are either a.) common life goals, or b.) relevant to achieving specific life goals.  Want to create your own non-profit?  Or learn how to juggle?  Bucket List Society How-To's are guides and advice by people who've already done it.  Please leave a comment below-- is this useful?  What should I do different for the next how-to post?

I’ve read about, watched, and practiced public speaking.  I’ve been through seemingly endless hours of personal coaching in it.  And while I don’t guarantee you will never see these tips anywhere else, I want to offer here a breath of fresh air from the absolute inanity of tips like “rehearse in front of a mirror” and “practice, practice, practice” that adorn the first page of Google results for “public speaking tips”.

1. Get on stage early

I’ve never once heard this tip, but it’s the single best way I know of to deal with pre-speech nervousness.  Spend as much time as possible in front of my audience before the speech starts.  That’s all.

Are you speaking in a class?  Get up there as soon as the teacher starts jotting down her final notes on the last speaker.  Maybe you’re in a row of presentations at work?  Stand up and get your PowerPoint plugged in and ready to go as soon as you can.  If you can walk around the stage a bit, do that.  You’re getting to know the territory.  When you’re giving your speech in another minute and a half, it’ll feel just a bit more like your home turf. Read More

[Profiles] John Goddard: Patron Saint of Bucket Lists

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This is part of a series of posts I’m running called “Profiles in Awesomeness”.  In it, I talk about the disgustingly prolific and ridiculously accomplished thinkers and doers whose lives and philosophies can inspire us and teach us how to accomplish our own goals.

This is my first profiles in awesomeness post, and I think an appropriate subject is John Goddard.  Here’s why.

When John Goddard was 15, a friend of his dad’s told him he regretted not doing all the things he wanted to when he was John’s age.  John, struck by the comment, got out a yellow legal pad and scribbled out 127 things he wanted to do before he died.

He was a pretty ambitious 15-year old.  Heavy hitting items include:

  • Circumnavigate the globe
  • Climb Cheop’s pyramid
  • Climb Kilimanjaro, Rainier, the Matterhorn, and Everest
  • Milk a poisonous snake
  • Hold breath underwater for 2.5 minutes
  • Explore the Amazon, Congo, and Nile rivers from source to mouth

Etc, etc, for 127 items.

Now here’s the ridiculous thing.  While most 15-year old boys could have compiled a similar list, most of us wouldn’t dedicate the rest of our lives to achieving every single one of them. Read More

The Great War for Your Short, Short Time on Earth

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Photo credit: Chris Smith (flickr: cjsmithphotography)

If you ever undertake some project, goal, or quest that requires a serious commitment of time, there will undoubtedly be some point during your journey where you will pause to reflect and find that you’d rather do anything that what you’re doing.  “Pluck my eyes out.  If I can’t see, I don’t have to finish writing my novel.”

Good for you.  That means you’re doing something worthwhile.  The only reason you made this much progress is because you knew it would pay off in the end.  It’s awfully inconvenient now– heck, you’d rather be blind– but keep dreaming about the finish line, because if you got you into this mess, it can get you out.

And that’s what I want to talk about now– why you got into this mess.

You did it because you thought it would be worthwhile.  Not easy, but worthwhile.  And now that it’s living up to your expectations, you’re taking some time to reflect.  And potentially gauge your eyes out.

Here’s something I think.  I think it with all of my heart:

Never, ever evaluate Read More

Making the List

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Photo credit: Matt Beckwith (flickr: mattbeckwith)

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.  It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.  We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?  Actually, who are you not to be?

-Marianne Williamson

 

What would you attempt to do if you knew you would not fail?

-Robert Schuller

Considering this is about life goals, you might think I have some sentimental attachment to other goals that people make, like New Year’s resolutions.

I don’t.  New Year’s resolutions are awful.  If you want to reform yourself and think it’s worth waiting until next January to do so, you’re raising my blood pressure.  In fact, leave.  Here’s a link to facebook, where you can piddle away your time until the new year: www.facebook.com.

Instead, let’s talk about how to make life goals.

I’ve seen a few blogs and books that tell you how to make your list of life’s goals.  Those raise my blood pressure too.  If you want a discussion of whether you should use pen or pencil, I can provide links.  If you want to know the best kind of paper for writing your goals on, I’ll be glad to refer you elsewhere.

All of that is immaterial compared to two things: making a list and working on it.

Don’t worry about anything else.  Use a notepad, Notepad, a Moleskine, a napkin, whatever.  If there’s no paper around and you tattoo it on your arm, all the better (send pictures if you choose that route).  The thing is, you can make a perfectly good and fulfilling list of life’s goals without reading another sentence of advice.  I encourage you to take a few minutes and put together at least a draft.  When you come back, I’ll ask you some questions just to make sure you didn’t forget anything at the very bottom of your heart.

And if you think you have it and never read this blog again, then all the best!

The Scenarios

I know of four questions that trigger that wild, joyful thinking so critical to making goals more than anything else I’ve heard. Read More

The Enemy

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The writer Steven Pressfield in his books The War of Art and Do the Work talks about a concept he calls Resistance. Resistance is a cold, impersonal force that acts against every creative endeavor you feel passionate about. He writes about it mostly in the context of art– Resistance is the nagging voice inside of you telling you that you can never be a real writer, that you’ll never finish your symphony, and that your paintings suck. It’s all the distractions to keep you from ever sitting down at your typewriter. Resistance can even take the form of all the legitimate reasons not to pick up your violin today– you do need to pick up the kids from school, and someone has to take out the trash.

Resistance is opposed to any endeavor we take that makes us a better person or the world a better place or brings us closer to our calling. Opening a restaurant? Starting a family? Voting your (unpopular) conscience? The universe is not apathetic to these actions; it is actively hostile. Resistance is that hostility.

Resistance knows you’d grow by doing these things, and it’s there to keep you from growing. If you give into it, you will die regretful and wondering. Resistance wants you to die like that. It hates you.

Here’s the good news though: Resistance means you’re doing something right. It will come knocking down your door with distractions, excuses, and self-doubt literally 100% of the time you’re moving towards what Pressfield calls a “higher spiritual plane”. On the other hand, if you are a giving up your life as a volunteer with Calcutta orphans to go work at Goldman Sachs, Read More